The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Democrats Slash Illinois Pensions

Dec 9, 2013

The Democratic-controlled Illinois state legislature and the Democratic governor just passed a law slashing pensions for Illinois public workers, in spite of the fact that the state constitution says that public pension benefits “may not be diminished or impaired.” This law cuts cost of living increases enormously, so that pensions won’t keep up with inflation. Teachers, nurses, caseworkers, and others who work 30 years and live 20 years after retirement will lose more than $250,000 each. It also makes workers younger than 46 wait up to five more years before retirement. And it sets up the threat of ditching the pensions for a 401(k) style plan, along with who knows what additional hidden cuts.

This attack was carried out, and will be imitated at the local level, by the Democratic Party–a party that has proven once again that it is an enemy of the working class.

The average worker affected by this bill today retires with a pension of $32,000 a year, and many make much less. Most of these retirees do not get Social Security. In addition most state workers pay between 8 and 9% of their wages into the pension fund throughout their working lives. With the inflation that’s sure to come in the years ahead, this bill will destroy the standard of living of current and future retirees.

Big business organizations like the Civic Federation pushed these cuts. The main Chicago newspapers went along with the drama, writing article after article about the “pension crisis.” Democrats sometimes shed crocodile tears for the benefit of the workers who supported them, but did the dirty work of big business by cutting the pensions nonetheless.

We can’t trust the numbers given about how underfunded the pension funds are to justify cutting them, but the funds undoubtedly are short. That’s because for decades, the state used the pension funds like a giant credit card, skipping payments so they could hand over tax breaks to huge corporations like Caterpillar, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Boeing, Miller-Coors, United Airlines, and Sears, to the tune of 1.5 billion dollars a year. About two-thirds of all companies in Illinois pay no state income taxes at all. And of course, these businesses and their politician cronies never cried about the state missing its pension payments all the years they were stealing the money.

The pension funds need to be filled back up by taking the money stolen out of them back from the big corporations. Obviously the Democrats will never do this. It’s long past time for workers to count on our own forces, build our own party, and stop supporting our enemies!